Defn: a human male displaying evidence of devolution - exhibits distinctive "caveman-like" tendencies. This man often dribbles in public places; cannot drink a beverage without spilling it on himself, the floor or someone else; may also run into objects like lampposts & bushes; has a definite "sloopish & short legged" running style that is slow and low to the ground, often resulting in the dragging of knuckles.

These throwback neanderthals, along with their questionable diet, should clearly be avoided.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Pony Express Trail Run

This is a lap around the Rampart Reservoir near Woodland Park that I ran 2 years ago, that was cancelled last year due to the damage along part of it caused by the Waldo Canyon Fire. 

It is advertised as a 15 mile race, but everyone I checked with had it at 14 1/3 miles - or thereabouts - with one guy getting lost and getting almost 15 miles in.

And then there was me - I did the deluxe tour.  More on that later.

Only 40 people started the race, my guess is due to all the rain in the past week, and potential for more on Sunday.  Every time there is a flash flood warning they close Highway 24 - the most direct route between Colorado Springs and Woodland Park.  For the morning though, the weather was decent - although true to form, by mid afternoon the road was closed down due to the rain again - but by that time I was home.

With 40 people in a race it was a fun and friendly atmosphere - in the pre-race anouncements, one note stood out: "Make sure the lake is always to your right".  Sounded like a good bit of common sense.

My plan was to try to maintain an even tempo throughout the race of 9 minute miles.  It was to be my second to last long run before the 50K in 2 weeks.  I have no idea how I will do on that - so I have not been working on any speedwork - just working on trying to maintain a steady pace - especially on long runs.

The first 1 1/3 mile is all downhill, dropping a few hundred feet - takes us to the waters edge - before then settling in to circumnavigating the reservoir in a clockwise direction.  There are very few flat sections, lots of water crossings, mud, a section where we ran across the dam road - and rolling, rolling, rolling terrain.  Overall about 1100' of elevation gain though, so it was a great place for a steady tempo run. 

After running the lap we would then return back up the 1 1/3 mile to where we began.  I had this in mind throughout and wanted to bank a bit of time for this to get in under my goal time of under 2 hrs, 15 minutes - which was a 9 minute pace throughout.

At the start I tried as hard as I could to stay slow and easy, wanting to not go faster than 9 minute miles - so as a result, a mile in I was only ahead of about 10 people, possibly less.  No worries though - I wasn't racing.....yet.

1 1/2 miles in we came to the first water crossing - wet shoes, mud up the legs.  Although I had not thought too much about what the course would be like, I immediately was happy.  I love playing in the mud.

As the miles and rollers progressed I was passing people.  The reservoir has lots of coves that wind around the perimeter - so it was easy to look across and see other runners ahead.  I thought about taking mental notes of other runners ahead of me to see what kind of gap they had - but reminded myself again that I was just out to run and stay steady. 

I had settled into a comfortable 8:45 per mile pace in the first 1/2 dozen miles - it just felt so comfortable and maintainable, so I went with it.  I thought ahead of the last uphill 1 1/3 mile and figured I would lose some steam up that, but would worry about that when I got there.

About 7 miles in I looked to my right across the bay and saw a group of runners ahead - my guess was about 30 to 40 seconds.  They were walking up a hill.  I thought it wouldn't be long before I would catch up to them.  I kept on going straight ahead and the next live thing I saw - several minutes later - was a group of wild turkeys - directly ahead of me on the trail.  Whaaaaat?  Surely if that group of runners had just gone through the turkeys would not be there, would they?

Besides, the reservoir was still........right.........ummmm......there????  Where was it again?  I couldn't see water.  I was following a trail up through a meadow - sure it wasn't much of a trail, it was narrower than I was on a few minutes ago, but it was still a trail.  Sort of.  The fact it was leading me into waist deep grass that clearly had not been trampled on by runners was my final clue that I had gone off course.

But hey, I saw some wild turkeys - that was fun.  So I turned around and backtracked, finally getting back to the trail proper.  As I rejoined the trail I ran into another runner whom I clearly confused as I was now running the wrong way.  I stopped, looked to my left and there was the right trail.  So I turned and off I went, mentioning to the other runner that I had taken a detour (Which ended up being 1 1/3 mile round trip).

My average pace per mile time was now up to 8:55.  Still no big deal, I really wasn't bothered because this was still just a fun long run I was on.  I did dial up the effort a bit and before long I was passing people again.  Sure it was the same people I had been passing before - but we were all having fun.

I now had no idea how many people were in front of me - so I thought that it would be fun to just see how many I could pass, all the while trying to maintain the steady pace - which I had got down to an 8:50 average by the time I hit the dam road (with 5 1/2 miles to go).

I was still running comfortably, eating my fig newtons and swedish fish (my new favorite running fuels) and every now and then I would come up and pass someone.  Many of the people I passed would ask if I had already had passed them - and I replied that yes I had, but had taken a detour - "the reservoir was supposed to be on our right, right?"

We continued on, going through about a mile or two of burn scars - sad - but some low level vegetation was starting to grow back.  Still running through water and mud, I was in a great mood and this kind of running is a lot of fun to me.

As we neared the end of the lap of the lake and turned onto the 1 1/3 mile long road section back to the start, I saw another runner about a half minute ahead of me.  Good, someone to try to pace off and catch.  I was still at 8:50 average and felt good - so I put my head down and gradually began to reel her in.

But she was determined, cause she had seen other runners ahead and was chasing them.  I eventually caught up to her, but in the process we both passed 4 other runners in that last stretch.  As I caught them I actually got faster and dropped the average per mile a couple of seconds.

Crossing the finish line in 2 hours 17 minutes - taking about 8 minutes off my previous time that I had run the race.  Surprisingly I had managed to pass about 2 dozen people after my detour and ended up in 10th place overall.  My first top ten finish ever that I can remember.  Sure if I didn't get myself lost I might of actually come in 5th or 6th - but I really didn't care.

It was a fun, muddy, long run that I had completed while maintaining the same steady pace throughout.  Goal achieved.  Plus I got to see a bit more of Colorado in my 15.6 miles - along with some startled turkeys out for a Sunday morning stroll.
Photo: Tom Dewane

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